A few years ago, I attended a business workshop where the topic was about the importance of happiness for creating success and achieving happiness through gratitude. As with many business workshops participants received tip sheets on ways to express gratitude, but no where among the tips was faith, religion, or belief in a G-d mentioned. It was a wholly secular perspective with scientific research on body and brain chemistry backing up the reasons why expressing gratitude was good for business and life in general.
I must admit I was a bit puzzled. Although I had not yet learned about the Jewish concept of happiness being an obligation, not a right (see my 2015 post Happiness is Found Within http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/happiness-is-found-within-1.2180624) I did know that the morning prayer we say thanks G-d for returning our soul to our body. I wondered why faith was absent from the workshop, especially since “Thank G-d” is a common phrase used even by people who are not affiliated with any religious organizations or congregations. Perhaps the workshop organizers feared that it would be too difficult to include faith or religion in the workshop given our multicultural communities, but I believe that even a brief acknowledgement of the faith and prayer is an important part of learning and working together.
The Jewish morning prayer Modeh Ani is very brief—a quick thank you to G-d before getting out of bed. The translation (from Chabad.org https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/623937/jewish/Modeh-Ani-What-and-Why) is I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.
For many Jews, these are the first words uttered upon waking. I looked up the prayer in Wikipedia to see what insights were posted from a secular and objective perspective. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modeh_Ani). There you will read that "this prayer serves the purpose of expressing gratitude to G-d for restoring one's soul each morning". You will also read that the prayer expresses the idea that “every day G-d renews every person as a new creation”.
This idea--that we are created new each day--supports what I wrote in my previous post (HERE), that each day G-d continuously creates us, our world, and everything that exists within it including everything we need to fulfill our purpose of making our world a better place.
What Wikipedia doesn’t explore is the second part of the of the prayer. The words Your faithfulness is great which refer to G-d’s faith in each of us. We may not know what our purpose is or how we are meant to contribute to the world, but the second part of Modeh Ani gives us comfort and confidence that we will succeed because if G-d did not have faith in us we would not exist.
The word faith means having a complete trust or confidence in someone or something, or a strong belief in something for which there is no proof. G-d has faith in us whether we have faith in ourselves or not. The fact that we were born means that G-d wants us in the world and each day that we wake up G-d is letting us know that we matter. Regardless of all the things in the world that are beyond our control, there is something that only we can contribute, a job that only we can do, or a thought that only we can express.
The best expression of this thanks and faith that I have is a memory of my Dad (of blessed memory). My Dad had Parkinson’s disease and for the last few years of his life he struggled with pain every waking hour. Even though he often had difficulty walking upright, he would start each day by making a cup of tea for my Mum to show her how much he loved and appreciated her, a ritual that he had done their entire married life. As he moved painfully around the apartment, he would loudly sing and hum the song Thank You by Petula Clark—a song of gratitude for each day.
My Dad knew that G-d had faith in him and that he still had something important to do each day--to express is love to my mother and to show his daughter the enduring power of love and gratitude.
(For song lyrics see https://www.lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/t/thankyoupetulaclark.html and for music go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7flOxtOmzM0 )
Fiona Prince (aka Morah Faiga) is a Communications & Behavioural Consultant in Victoria, BC. She volunteers for Chabad Vancouver Island, teaching children and adults how to read Hebrew.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE